Revealed: The fate of three Mancunian Black Sabbath support acts
A compilation album celebrating Manchester’s early rock underground – which flourished in the late 1960s and early 1970s and set the template for the city’s famous indie scene – also charts the course of three Mancunian bands who shared a stage with Black Sabbath just before Ozzy Osbourne and co found fame.
Man Chest Hair features 18 tracks from acts who nearly made it, including songs by Urbane Gorilla, Grisby Dyke and Stack Waddy, who all opened for Sabbath at a Manchester show in 1970.
The project came about by a happy accident. Andy Votel of Finders Keepers, which specialises in releasing vintage foreign-language music, discovered the band JC Heavy via a German label and loved them instantly. Then he discovered they were from his home town of Stockport.
“It felt like a practical joke,” he says. “One part hilarious, one part suspicious, one part victorious – and overall strangely disappointing. I was disappointing in myself for not knowing.
“From this point it was clear: Finders Keepers had to make up for lost time. If JC Heavy represented an alternative, unknown sound of Mancunia, we needed to hear more. And what the blinkered music industry overlooked first time round, Finders Keepers were here to liberate, re-evaluate and celebrate.”
Urbane Gorilla played their first gig with Sabbath, then known as Earth, supporting them. Their track Ten Days Gone appears on the album.
Bassist Jeff Dade recalls: “It was the only time I had ever been nervous on stage. The Brummies were real rough guys, but musically amazing – and almost impossible to follow.”
By the next year the bands had swapped roles. Dade remembers a near fight between his outfit and fellow Mancunians Stack Waddy as all four crews loaded in for the show. “They had a reputation as tough cookies,” he says. “During an altercation about lift space the entire Urbane Gorilla band got out of their seats. Not one of us was shorter than six foot. They backed down and the Gorilla gear went up.”
Near miss: Manchester's "heaviest group" Stack Waddy
Osbourne was a fan of Stack Waddy, known as “the Rainy City’s heaviest group.” DJ John Peel funded their 1971 self-titled album after a previous recording was completed but never released. Urbane Gorilla also finished recording sessions – but Dade suspects a roadie disappeared with the tapes.
The third Sabbath support act that night, Grisby Dyke, recorded two singles, Hot Potato and Nebula, of which the second appears on Man Chest Hair. Guitarist Derek Foley went on to work with Paladin and Graham Bond.
Pioneers: Slipped Disc also appear
Votel says: “That was entirely what the early seventies in the North West represented: a time when you could be whoever you wanted to be, where space rock and glam pop collided, and mind-altering medicines could either place you in the company of Frankenstein’s monster or on a flying dragon’s back. Uppers, downers, smilers and frowners.
“Today the success of the Mancunian music scene is nothing short of amazing. Its vivid and varied palette of styles and its ability to reinvent, rebuild and conquer in defiance of the major music industry’s moody inertia is globally inspiring and perpetually rejuvenating.
“But from the outside perspective it is also in constant danger of reverting to its bad tempered pseudo tuff-lad image. In the early 1970s Manchester arguably had more combined attitude, adventure and savvy than anywhere else in the country – but it also retained that all important ingredient: a good sense of humour. Not forgetting some decent facial hair.”
Man Chest Hair is on sale now from Finders Keepers.